SAN DIEGO -- By no means was Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner expecting to get the chance to start this season, though he was elated to hear that he will get the opportunity Saturday against the Brewers.
"I'm looking forward to it ... it's exciting," Cashner said Thursday. "I'm excited about the opportunity to do something I've wanted to do. I didn't think it would be this year."
But this isn't merely a case of Cashner helping the team in a pinch, as Saturday's scheduled starter, Eric Stults, went on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a strained left lat muscle.
San Diego general manager Josh Byrnes said that Cashner will be optioned to the Minor Leagues after Saturday's start to build his endurance and pitch count before he returns to the big leagues -- this time as a starter and not in the eighth-inning specialist role he had been pitching in.
"We'll see how it goes. Ideally, he'll pitch into the third inning and we'll see where his pitch count is," Padres manager Bud Black said. "It's good for him. His mix of pitches will enable him to start moving forward if we think that's the way to go."
Cashner has been a starting pitcher throughout his career and actually opened the 2011 season as the fifth starter in the Cubs rotation. He made one start and then missed most of the next five months of 2011 because of a strained right rotator cuff.
Cashner was 10-8 with a 2.82 ERA in 48 appearances in the Minor Leagues with the Cubs, 42 of which were made as a starting pitcher.
Cashner is 3-3 this season with a 3.81 ERA in 27 games. He's allowed 23 hits in 26 innings and has 29 strikeouts in that stretch. He threw 26 pitches in his last appearance Tuesday against the Giants. The most pitches he's thrown in a game this season is 39.
When Cashner takes the mound against the Brewers, he'll be the 11th pitcher to make a start for the injury-plagued team this season.